Why does England consistently underachieve at the World Cup?

Jun 27, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Sports Buzz

The English like to refer to their failure to win a major international honour since the 1966 World Cup as the ‘48 years of hurt’. This long history of underachievement has continued with England exiting this year’s World Cup without even a single win to their name, despite many observers feeling that they had a young and exciting squad. These consistent failures seem baffling when one considers that the English invented football and have what is widely considered to be the most competitive domestic league in the world. However, probing deeper reveals many flaws in the English system that consistently harm England’s chances at major tournaments.

The first and perhaps most significant issue is the English Premier League. This league is hugely popular worldwide, with fans across the globe supporting teams such as Manchester United and Chelsea. Unfortunately, the global appeal of the league has led to huge amounts of money being invested in clubs by foreign owners. This means that clubs are unlikely to give young talent playing time, preferring to bring in proven foreign players in search of immediate success. As a result, the English National Team suffers. The statistics clearly show the detrimental impact this has. In the Premier League, only 30% of players are English, whilst in the German Bundesliga, over 50% of players are German. The effects of this are clear: the German National Team is much stronger than the English one. What makes matters worse is that there is no easy way to force clubs to develop English players, considering that legions of fans worldwide, demand victory at all costs. Compounding this is that foreign owners and fans have absolutely no interest in the English National Team. England captain Steven Gerrard has also recently admitted that the amount of money in the league makes it discourages players from playing for England, as they earn much more money playing for club teams. The Premier League additionally has no winter break, leaving England players exhausted by the time the World Cup rolls around, again leading to chronic underachievement.

Another problem is the poor coaching standards across the country. England only has 2,769 UEFA certified coaches compared to over 34,000 in Germany. English youth coaching is therefore in a terrible state: unqualified coaches encourage long-ball football from an early age, and often choose to ignore technically skilled children in favour of larger, stronger kids. Thus, the players who are encouraged are often sub-par, and player development suffers due to an emphasis on size rather than talent. The shortage of coaches also means that many talented children remain undiscovered, and are not given the chance to hone their skills at academies. In England, young children are also forced to play matches on full-size pitches which prevent them from developing their ability to keep possession under pressure, a quality clearly lacking at this World Cup. Grassroots football in England also suffers from severe underfunding and a lack of facilities, extremely ironic given the wealth of English clubs.

Whereas the Premier League and poor coaching means that the amount of world-class English players is consistently less than in nations such as Brazil and Germany, England also have a history of underachieving with the players that they do have. In particular, the so-called English ‘Golden Generation’ flopped at the 2006 World Cup, despite possessing players like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in their primes. Generally, the players are unable to live up to the massive amounts of pressure heaped on to them by the expectant English public and media, and thus fail on the big stage. Failure to perform under pressure is clear from England’s frankly atrocious record in penalty shoot-outs, the ultimate test of nerve: England has never won a World Cup penalty shoot-out.

Thus, all of these factors combine to leave England with not only inferior players, but also those who perform below their capabilities when they pull on an England shirt. Thus, unless there is a revolution in the entire English footballing structure, the years of hurt are likely to drag on, given how limp England’s ‘young and exciting’ team were against Uruguay and Costa Rica.

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